Theologians love to speculate. The problem arises when they begin to think of their speculations as fact — and especially when they begin to convince laymen that their speculations are fact. Then the bare fact that the speculation comes attached to the name of a famous theologian or pastor makes it authoritative – until somebody starts asking for biblical backing.
Sadly, many people don’t bother to ask.
When that happens, the speculation takes on a life of its own, and before you know it, it’s one of those things that “everybody knows,” and questioning it becomes literally unthinkable. That way lies ruin; it is exactly in that way that tradition becomes more authoritative than God’s Word.
Case in point: there’s a particular bit of speculation going around that God created man in order to prove to Satan that His judgment of Satan was just. When Satan rebelled and God condemned him, so the tale goes, Satan challenged God’s love and justice in condemning him to the lake of fire. In response to the challenge, God creates man, whom He will save, in order to demonstrate His love and justice. As it’s generally told, the whole thing ties in nicely with the gap theory (a serious problem in itself), which allows for the notion of a whole other world, governed and ultimately corrupted by Satan, destroyed in an enormous cataclysm, and reshaped into the world that Adam knew. In the right hands, it’s a cracking good yarn; it’ll keep you spellbound for an hour or so of good storytelling.
What’s alarming about this speculation is not that someone crafted it, but the amazing number of people who accept it as gospel truth, on the flimsiest of biblical evidence (and in the teeth of a couple of verses I’ll cite below). Accordingly, I would like to present a competing tale of the fall of Satan. I openly and freely admit that I am speculating wildly. Although I think my speculations are consistent with everything Scripture says, I do not assert them as fact. I wasn’t there; how would I know? Please bear with me in a little folly; the method to my madness will presently appear.
The Fall of Satan: A Theological Science Fiction Story
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Genesis 1 unfolds literally as it’s told in the text, with no interpolated aeons that Moses somehow neglected to mention. God made the formless and void stuff of the universe and then, over the next six days, He shaped it into the world that Adam and Eve knew. Exactly when in this process God created the angels we don’t know, except that it was no later than the third day, because on the third day, God separated the dry land from the seas, and called the dry land Earth—and when He laid the foundations of the earth, all the angels shouted for joy (Job 38:4-7). Throughout the remainder of the creation week, the heavenly hosts rejoiced at God’s magnificent creativity. Undoubtedly Lucifer rejoiced with them, playing his timbrels and pipes to the glory of Yahweh.
God made a holy mountain, Eden, a place of fiery stones and ferocious beauty, and it was here that Lucifer walked back and forth before God, playing his music. A river flowed out of this mountain, toward the east, and it watered the garden God planted for mankind. On the sixth day, God made Adam there, and charged him with tending and keeping the garden.
Adam seemed to Lucifer a puny thing, earthbound and material, lacking the power and enormous beauty that Lucifer had. Yet God paid inordinate attention to this man, gave him work to do, and made a companion for him, another puny being comparable to him. And then, as Lucifer watched from the mountain of God, God ordered these two puny creatures to multiply their kind until they filled and subdued the whole earth.
Then God looked at all He had made — earth and sky, land and sea, animals, angels, and man — and saw that it was very good (Genesis 1:31). And on the seventh day, God rested.
On the seventh day, Lucifer stewed. The more he contemplated man, the angrier and more jealous he got. Lucifer raged, “I’ll never give up my mountain to these weak little things. I’ll never see puny beings made of dirt—dirt!—walk in the midst of my fiery stones. They must never fill the earth — I won’t have them here!”
But God Himself had given the order. What could Lucifer do? And as soon as he had framed the question, the answer came to him in a flash: he must overthrow God Himself. If he could ascend to heaven and be like the Most High, then he could make the rules. Lucifer rallied the angels. Being immensely beautiful and powerful had its advantages; a great number of them came over to his side.
How did he think that he could supplant God? We’ll never know. Perhaps he remembered his own wakening to consciousness, only a few days before God made man. Perhaps he speculated that if he was so immensely more powerful than man, and only a few days older, that God might be just a few more days older yet, and might be overthrown if he could just be quick and clever enough. Perhaps the story of Zeus and Chronos is satanic wish-fulfillment. Perhaps. We will probably never know for sure. But whatever his reasoning, he went to war with God.
And he lost. He could not supplant God; God was too powerful for him. Defeated but determined, he retreated to his mountain and regrouped. If he could not defeat God with power, perhaps he could yet wound Him by ruining His creation. If man would sin, and therefore must die, then Lucifer need not surrender his mountain after all.
Taking the guise of a serpent, Lucifer crept into the garden, to the Tree at the center, whose fruit God had forbidden. He waited. From time to time, the puny ones would pass by in their work of tending the garden. He waited. One day, they stopped to rest not far from the Tree. Lucifer slipped a little closer and addressed Woman: “Yea, hath God said…”
Note a couple of differences between the fiction I mentioned at the start and my own fiction. In the one, Satan falls before Genesis 1:2, and in the other, he falls after Genesis 2. In the one, Satan watches the creation week as an enemy of God, and in the other, he shouts for joy. In the one, there’s a whole other world that happened before Adam’s world, and in the other, there’s not. They can’t both be true. It’s one or the other — or neither.
I repeat, I am not asserting that the yarn I just spun for you is fact. Very far from it. I have no idea if that’s the way it happened. My question is, can you disprove it? If not, then why teach your own speculation instead of mine? If we can spin multiple plausible (and mutually exclusive) stories about how it might have been, and we can’t seem to disprove any of them, then perhaps we should be more careful about asserting that one or the other of those stories is actually true.
Here’s a funny thought: maybe we should just stick to asserting what the Bible says is true.